After receiving my doctorate in Computer Science in 2010 I went full-time developing a number of SaaS systems for my brother who works in the UK film PR industry. The initial idea was to sell access to these systems on a SaaS basis but given that these systems are crucial for my brother’s company to maintain an edge over competing PR firms they will most likely remain exclusive to his company.
While it has been a great learning experience, no more clients means very little growth of course, so this year I have been on the search for new problems/niches to tackle and while I have identified a good few, finding one that ticks all the right boxes is proving elusive at best.
Back in 2010 I realised that the work I had enjoyed most up to that point was when I was creating things for people who would otherwise go without assistance and so would need to do many laborious tasks manually. This is what led me to make a range of systems specifically for the PR industry as well as one-off systems for friends and family that, while completely unprofitable (free in fact), brought me the most satisfaction due to the systems being of direct use to them. My aim is to continue to work on projects that I have a personal connection to, make things that are truly useful to their users and make it so that this can be sustained due to at least one or two of them being both scalable and profitable (and bootstrapped of course!).
Back in 2011 in Osaka I saw a talk given by @patio11 on underserved markets which I connected strongly with and found great encouragement from as there he was saying (and I paraphrase) that not only can making software for underserved markets be rewarding in terms of helping people who would otherwise not have that help, but that it could actually be a sound niche to be in due to it being relatively uninteresting and off the radar for the vast majority of software developers. I think this view is somewhat echoed by Rob Walling’s approach which involves identifying niches that are big enough, but not so big that they attract big companies with massive budgets.
This year I’ll go to MicroConf and before that Brennan Dunn and Nathan Barry’s one-day workshop in London on building an audience. It would be great if I was going to such events ready to apply the advice given to a SaaS product I have now but given my one-client limit unfortunately I’m a long way off from that point. I am however greatly looking forward to meeting and learning from those who have gone before and those who are closer to just starting out like me. I’m also glad to be here on this forum and look forward to learning from the discussions here.